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Santa Margarita Lake Recreation & Natural Area

CAMP---SML-LOGOCreated by the construction of the Salinas Dam in 1941, Santa Margarita Lake was originally designed to furnish water to Camp San Luis Obispo. Today, swimming in the lake is not permitted as it is the drinking water reservoir for the City of San Luis Obispo.

Beyond the developed area of the park, Santa Margarita Lake Natural Area represents several thousand acres of designated open space. This section of the park is managed for its natural resource values, passive recreational use, and environmental education opportunities. The area is accessible to hikers, bicyclists and equestrians. Motor vehicles are not permitted in the Natural Area. Santa Margarita Lake is a nature lover’s retreat. With thousands of acres of unspoiled open space, the park is home to countless species of plants and wildlife making it the perfect location for nature study, boating, and fishing.

Quagga Mussel Notice:

We are conducting boat inspections at both Santa Margarita Lake and Lopez Lake. The following link will provide information regarding invasive species that could affect both these lakes. California Department of Fish & Wildlife


Contact Information

Santa Margarita Lake Office 805.788.2397 |  Pool Reservations 805.781.5930, x4 |  Marina Point Store 805.438.1522


There are 60 primitive campsites (no hook-ups) and reservations can be made up to one year in advance.  Campsites are located in the Coyote, Roadrunner, Grey Pine, and Osprey campgrounds.  The Sapwi and Khus campgrounds are primitive boat-in sites that can be reserved by individuals or groups (up to five sites maximum).  There are coin-operated shower facilities available.

Fishing / Boating

Santa Margarita Lake is known for its excellent fishing and peaceful boating atmosphere.  Cast your line into Santa Margarita Lake and you’ll find hungry redear, trout, catfish, crappie and bluegill.  Fish from shore or try your luck from a boat or canoe.

Current Lake Level can be found at

Picnic Areas / Hiking Trails

Individual picnic sites with shade, ample seating, larger barbecues and other amenities are found throughout the park.  The White Oak Group Day Use Area is perfect for family reunions, company picnics, club barbeques or special events, and can be reserved year-round.  The park also has a vast range of hiking and riding trails offering breath-taking views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Swimming Pool

Due to a shortage of lifeguards, the pool will be open on a limited schedule.  To view the pool schedule for 2022, click here.

Location / Directions

Directions to Santa Margarita Lake
Whether you’re driving North or South on Highway 101, take the Highway 58 exit into Santa Margarita. Follow through town and look for Highway 58 signs. At the end of town you will turn right onto Highway 58. This is also referred to as Santa Margarita Lake Road/Pozo Road. Follow this road for approximately 7 miles to Santa Margarita Lake Road. Do not turn left onto Highway 58. Continue until you get to Santa Margarita Lake Road. Turn left (the Rinconada Store will be on your right). The entrance to Santa Margarita Lake is at the end of this road.

Directions to Natural Area

Primary access to the Natural Area is from River Road at the East end of the lake. Take Santa Margarita Lake/Pozo Road approximately 8 from the lake entrance to River Road. Turn left and proceed for approximately 2 miles. The entrance to the Natural Area is on the left.

Santa Margarita Lake

Santa Margarita Lake

Santa Margarita Lake Recreation & Natural Area

4695 Santa Margarita Lake Road
Santa Margarita, CA 93453

SLO County Parks & Recreation